Heights tree-planting to go ahead despite objections

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Joseph E. Robertson Park 1100 Allaire Rd Spring Lake Heights (MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE COAST STAR)

SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS — The borough is moving ahead with its tree-planting project at Joseph E. Robertson Park on Allaire Road, although the mayor and council plan to continue discussions with residents who raised objections this week, preferring adding athletic fields over new tree groves. 

Earlier this month, the council awarded a bid to Down To Earth Landscaping of Jackson to plant 200 new trees at the park, including a perimeter of evergreen trees to buffer adjoining neighborhoods, as well as east and west groves of shade trees and ornamentals. They will replace 183 trees, in danger of toppling, that were chopped down in 2019. 

Mayor Christopher M. Campion Jr. said he expects the tree planting to begin in a week or so and to be completed in May. 

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Two residents, during the public comment portion of Monday’s borough council meeting, spoke against plans for planting shade-tree groves on space they said ought to be preserved for athletic fields.

Glenn Bodner of 10th Avenue said, “There’s never a bad time to stop a bad idea. This proposal right now is a minority of the town …  no other proposals were put on board. Those of us who wanted it to stay open, perhaps an athletic field, it was considered for 30 seconds. It was a done deal before it was even started.”

Mayor Campion said, “I agree it was a done deal before it was even started because when I sat on the council and I cast my vote to chop the trees down, I said the only way I would cast my vote to remove the trees was if they were replanted. I agree a field was never an option.”

Kevin Byrne of Central Avenue also favored adding athletic fields. He said “I think there is a better resolution for this. When those trees came down, we wanted to put them back. Use them as a buffer around the perimeter. Use the Highway 71 corridor … We can put two fields in there and everything would be fine… We can plant trees throughout the rest of Spring Lake Heights,” Mr. Byrne said.

Mayor Campion suggested reworking the “front” area of the park, where the softball/T-ball field is located, for a new athletic field. 

He also noted that the borough has a shared-services agreement with the school for use of the grassy fields behind borough hall, adjacent to the school. “That is public domain and available to the public and we can absolutely look into doing that,” he said.

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